Bram Stoker’s Dracula by Fred Saberhagen & James V. Heart

Arthur followed the pair of physicians. “My blood—did not cure her?”

Van Helsing, just reaching the head of the stairs and starting down, did not even turn his head but only laughed, somewhat bitterly, as if to himself.

Holmwood appealed silently to Seward for some explanation, but the look he received in return indicated a helplessness almost as profound as his own.

The three men continued out of the house into the formal garden, where on a happier day, about four months ago, Jonathan Harker had once waited to see his beloved Mina.

Now it was a warmly pleasant September night, for once not raining, inviting deep breathing and the contemplation of the stars. A gaslight, burning above the terrace, attracted moths and threw warm illumination on hedges and brickwork, on late-summer flowers and a small burbling fountain.

Holmwood, who before coming outdoors had detoured past the sideboard in the dining room, was now carrying a substantial amount of brandy in a snifter and fortifying himself with an occasional sip.

Van Helsing had said nothing for a little while. Now he finished lighting a cigar, threw away the match, then turned to challenge his younger colleague. “So? Can you tell me now why is this young lady bloodless?”

Seward could come up with no ready answer.

“Use your logic,” Van Helsing urged him. “Think, man!”

Seward gazed up the broad flight of stairs leading to the terrace just outside Lucy’s room, in which a dim light still burned. He mused: “There are those marks on her throat. Perhaps they were caused by something more than an accident with a pin, as Mina thought—possibly her major blood loss occurred there?”

Van Helsing made little meditative, grunting noises, seeming to express a qualified approval. His attitude seemed to indicate that his student was on the right track, but had not gone nearly far enough.

He said: “You were a careful student, Jack. Now you are master—or should be. Where did the blood go, Jack, eh? Come come—”

The younger doctor let out breath with a sigh. He shook his head at his own slow-wittedness. “How foolish of me! Not from those or any other external wounds. The bedclothes would be covered in blood.” He paused.

“Yes? So?”

“Unless…” Seward hesitated again. A horrible explanation had seemed to shimmer in the air before him like a will-o’-the-wisp, only to be gone again before his mind could grasp it solidly.

The professor, now hovering close to Seward like the figure of some tempter in a play, was almost murmuring into his ear.

“Unless? Unless? So—so?”

Holmwood, meanwhile, could do no more than look on and listen in pitiable confusion.

Seward extended his hands, as if he might physically grope his way toward the truth, a truth still tantalizingly out of reach.

Van Helsing, chewing his cigar, relentlessly stalked him. “Hah—imagine, Jack, that you have a brain. Open it up. Show me what you are thinking now!”

Seward, in his frustration and anger, at last turned on the older physician, gesturing wildly. “Then all I can think of is that something has drained her life! I suppose something just went up there, sucked out her blood, and flew away?”

“Ja.” The answer was a flat, uncompromising challenge. “Ja, why not?”

“That’s quite enough,” said Holmwood firmly, and hiccuped. He had swallowed the last drops of brandy from his snifter, and in his debilitated state after the transfusion, the result was intoxication. He sat down shakily on a stone bench, letting the glass fall to the ground beside him.

The other two ignored him for the time being. Van Helsing still pursued his former student.

“Hear me out! Jack, you are a scientist. Do you not think there are things in this universe which you cannot understand—and yet which are true?” He gestured to the starry night above.

“You know I do not,” Seward responded grimly.

His mentor was relentless. “Oh? Mesmerism? Hypnotism? Electromagnetic fields?”

The young man wearily conceded one point. “You and Charcot have proved hypnotism.”

“Astral bodies? Materialization?”

“I don’t know—”

“Aha! Just so… now you have admit that there is much you do not know, I tell you this—” And Van Helsing paused; making sure he had the total attention of both men. “Listen to me! There is a thing that drains her blood, as you have said. And dear Lucy, God help us, suckles from this thing its own diseased blood, with the result that she transform, to become what it is… a monster… a beast.”

His listeners were speechless with horror; worse, with a lack of comprehension.

Morning had come again to England, and Mina was disturbed by hints she had heard from the servants of turmoil and illness in the house during the night. Following her late return from her strange encounter with the prince, she herself had retired to her room next to Lucy’s, where she had fallen quickly into a deathlike oblivion of sleep and heard nothing.

To Mina’s relief, she found Lucy this morning sleeping peacefully in her bedroom. The visitor, seeking anxiously for signs of improvement in her friend, had to admit that the pale face on the pillows looked only marginally better than it had yesterday.

Yesterday… how very long ago that seemed.

She, Mina, though technically her virginity was still preserved, was the one who now had an illicit lover. How strange, how incomprehensible!

And she knew, with a helpless, wonderful certainty, that she was going to see her prince again, as soon as possible.


Today Mina, seeking anonymity, had taken the train into town. She had gone to meet her prince, at his request, at Rule’s Cafe, a popular West End place, where, a few years earlier, the notorious poet Oscar Wilde might have been observed charming ladies and cultivating handsome young men.

Though lords and princes were common enough at Rule’s, the imperious manner of Mina’s escort, and a well-calculated donation of his money, promptly obtained for them a private dining room.

Food and wine were now on the table, and a violin was playing somewhere in the background—music lighthearted and sad by turns, that to Mina suggested Gypsies. The silhouettes of dancing couples were visible through the small room’s walls of frosted glass.

The prince was saying to her: “The land of my forefathers is every bit as rich as is your England, in culture and fable and lore.”

“Yes…”A fanciful scene of unaccustomed vividness was drifting through Mina’s imagination. “I am willing to believe that it must be.”

Her companion’s eyes, startlingly blue with the dark glasses gone, twinkled as he smiled. “In my opinion, my homeland is the most beautiful place in all creation.”

“Transylvania.” Mina’s voice, her mood, were absent, dreamy, almost giddy. She was sipping from a glass of milky-green absinthe, the drug of the moment for London café society, ordered in a moment’s inexplicable impulse that was at least in keeping with the rest of her mad behavior this afternoon—or was it her companion who had suggested absinthe? At the moment she could not recall. But in her more lucid moments of this hour she thought the drink must be at least partially responsible for her condition.

Transylvania… dimly she could remember, months ago, Jonathan’s voice speaking that same name… some nobleman, in the exotic wilds of Transylvania … yes, that was it. The same place, or near the place, where Jonathan was going, had gone, on business. His last letter, written so long ago, had come from somewhere in the region of Transylvania, from Castle Dracula…

But the image of her fiancé faded swiftly.

She mused: “I see the meaning of the name… a land beyond a great, vast forest. Surrounded by mountains that are so majestic. And lush vineyards. And flowers, I can almost see them, inhale their fragrance; flowers of such frailty and beauty as can be found nowhere else on God’s green earth.”

The prince leaned forward. How young he is, she thought, watching the candlelight on his smooth face. How beautiful. Quite unlike all other men. Definitely superior to any of them.

He said quietly: “You describe my home as if you might already have seen it at first hand.”

Mina allowed her eyes to close—for just a moment. The closing was so restful. From the darkness behind her lids she said: “It is your voice, perhaps. So… familiar . . . like a voice in a dream that you cannot place. It comforts me… when I am alone.”

Her eyes came open again; so easily, yet sleepily. She met the gaze of her companion, and Mina was distantly aware that the contact was far too prolonged. Then suddenly, just how she was not sure, he had come to be seated close beside her. His right hand was at her throat, fingers gently but firmly tracing, caressing. Quite possessively, as if this were the most natural thing in all the world…

Suddenly a giddy laugh burst from her lips. Something made her get to her feet, breaking the physical contact, as if she knew this was the last chance she would ever have to do so… then out of nowhere a question came to her lips.

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Categories: Saberhagen, Fred